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2016 Mugello MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Improbable Alliances, and Saving Italian Racing

Every year at Mugello, Valentino Rossi and Italian designer Aldo Drudi come up with a special helmet design for Rossi's helmet. They vary in originality and ingenuity: my own personal favorite by far was the helmet from 2008, which featured Rossi's face on the top, wide-eyed with the terror he felt braking for the first corner at San Donato, one of the highest speed approaches on the calendar. Others have varied from the obscure and personal, to the entertaining or passionate. Most people have their own personal favorite, a few curmudgeons find the whole idea rather pointless.

Rossi's helmet for this year features a simple design, based on a pun in Italian. His AGV Pista GP helmet is yellow, featuring an outline of the Mugello circuit, and the word "MUGIALLO" around the front. "Mugiallo" is a play on the words Mugello, the name of the circuit, and "giallo", the Italian word for yellow. Rossi's tribal color is yellow, his fans call themselves "Il popolo giallo", or The Yellow People. The press release from Dainese described it as a tribute to the circuit, and to Rossi's fans.

Is that what it means to Rossi himself, though? On Saturday, Rossi made his helmet look more like an act of appropriation than a tribute. Rossi's searing qualifying lap laid bare his intentions: Valentino Rossi laid claim to the Mugello circuit. He came here to win.

2016 Mugello MotoGP FP4 Result: Iannone Leads Rossi as Pace Heats Up

Andrea Iannone ended the final session of free practice for MotoGP at the head of the timesheets. Iannone took a big lead early on, but Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales chipped away at his lead, until there was only around a tenth of a second left. Andrea Dovizioso finished in fourth, six tenths of a second behind his teammate, and just ahead of two more Ducatis, the Pramac of Scott Redding and the Aspar bike of Yonny Hernandez.

Results:

2016 Mugello MotoGP FP3 Result: Iannone Imposes in Mad Dash for Q2

Andrea Iannone has topped the timesheets in the final session of free practice for the MotoGP class, once again posting an impressive lap to become the first rider to get into the 1'46s. The last ten minutes of practice turned hectic, as the riders embarked on the shootout to get straight into Q2. The lead swapped hands several times, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo battling for supremacy, with the Repsol Honda rider getting the upper hand at first, before Andrea Iannone took control.

2016 Mugello Moto3 FP3 Result: Antonelli Leads Tight Field

Niccolo Antonelli has topped the final session of free practice for the Moto3 at Mugello, the weather returning to typically Tuscan sun and warmth. The Italian put in a late push to take top spot from Gabri Rodrigo, who had himself taken first just a few moments earlier. Romano Fenati ended the session in third, ahead of Juanfran Guevara and Pecco Bagnaia.

2016 Mugello MotoGP Friday Round Up: Of Intermediates, Seizing Opportunities, and Permanent Pain

"This morning was not Mugello weather," joked Pramac Ducati team manager Francesco Guidotti when we went to speak to him on Friday evening. It was cold, wet, and overcast, with a track still damp from the overnight rain. The Tuscan sun stayed hidden behind the clouds, lending no hand in burning off any water on the track. It was that horrible half-and-half weather that teams and riders fear so much, a completely lost session in terms of preparing for the race.

It was also precisely the kind of conditions that had prompted the return of intermediate tires. Fearing empty tracks – and consequently, dead TV time – Dorna had asked Michelin to produce tires that might tempt riders out on track, give TV viewers something to watch, and TV commentators something to talk about.

It didn't really work. At the start of MotoGP FP1, a group of riders went out on the hard wet tires, switching to intermediates as the track started to dry out a little. But it was still only about half the field, the rest preferring to remain safely ensconced in the pits, only venturing out at the end of the session to do a test start or two. Why, fans and journalists alike asked, did the riders not make use of the tools they had been given?

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